Keith Karl Kaser 1894-1963
Born in Danville, Ohio, Keith Karl Kaser was the oldest in the family of Clifford and Mary Isadore (Mame) Kaser. (Perhaps Mary Isadore went to her family home to give birth to her first child.) But I didn’t know him until he was nearly 50, because my father was fifteen years younger than Keith, and was thirty years old when I was born. That meant that my Kaser cousins were a good deal older than I was, too. But that did not stop Keith and his wife Blanche from welcoming me into their home for visits.
Because he was the older brother, Keith undertook extra responsibility when both the parents of his family died –his mother in 1926 and his father in 1930. Keith had the heft to handle responsibility and hard work. And he had a lively intelligence and endearing sense of humor, despite a sometimes hard life. Like my father, his formal education ended with high school graduation, but he continued to explore his curiosity about the world.
Chubby young Keith is pictured with his baby sister Irene in this early photo. He would have been about four years old:
And he just kept getting chubbier. As a young man, he worked for his father’s tin business, pictured here about 1914, (Keith would have been 19 or 20) when his father started a shop in Killbuck, Ohio.
The year after this family picture was taken, Keith married Blanche Belle Craft (1986-1991), who was only 19, and they lived in Killbuck. When he filled in his World War I Draft Registration, in June, 1917, he was a 23-year-old married farmer with one child. He claimed an exemption from military service because of his membership in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, his father’s church. Keith was described as short and stout, with light blue eyes and light hair.
When the 1920 census was taken, Keith was working for the railroad as a “track man”, and living in Millersburg, Ohio. Some time between then and 1930, he moved to Orrville, Ohio with Blanche and their three children–Evelyn, Phyllis and Dick, where he returned to farming. When their father died in 1930, both Irene Kaser(Bucklew) and Paul Kaser moved in with Keith and Blanche for a time.
And here he is as a farmer in the thirties (his hair had turned prematurely white)[ Correction: I have rethought my identification of this picture, thanks to doubts expressed by a cousin. Although the body type is like Keith in his older years, the face is not right. The man with the hat looks more like it would be Keith. Still need help with dating this picture.] That’s my dad, Paul Kaser in the knitted cap. Paul Kaser did not last long on the farm, moving on to a variety of jobs during the depression.
By 1936 (probably a few years earlier) he had received a ticket out of farming. The Clerk of Courts of Holmes County appointed him as Deputy Clerk, and Keith moved his family into Millersburg, the county seat. Knowing Keith, and reading about his activities from then on in his life, I really don’t think that farming suited him any better than it did my dad, but either of them would do whatever work they had to do to support themselves and their families. A work ethic they learned from their father, Clifford Kaser.
In March of 1936 a newspaper announcement listed several Democrat party candidates for the job of Clerk of Courts, including Keith K. Kaser. He won the primary election and when November rolled around he had a free ride. There was no Republican opposition in this majority-Democrat county.
I was amazed to learn that my Aunt Blanche served as Uncle Keith’s deputy clerk. Apparently Ohio had no nepotism restrictions.
Ironically, the same year, my father and mother had started dating, and he had joined her in her efforts for Republican candidates. Paul Kaser and Harriette Anderson were quite active in politics in the years just before they married.
When I was a small girl, I vividly remember visiting the County Court House in Millersburg with Uncle Keith. He showed me enormous books with hand-written records of transactions that must have dated back decades. I was very impressed with his importance.
Keith Kaser was naturally a social animal, but his leadership tendencies and camaraderie served him well on the political stage. He was very active in the Masonic Lodge, holding many high offices. And he was a leader, Sunday School teacher, and ultimately Deacon at the Millersburg Church of Christ. I don’t know whether he left the Seventh Day Adventist Church because there was not one in Millersburg, or because it was Blanche’s choice, but at any rate, he was an active church member for the rest of his life.
When he filled in his World War II Draft Registration card in April 1942, he was living at 208 Clay Street in MIllersburg, and place of employment is listed as East Jackson Street, Millersburg, Holmes County, Ohio (The County Courthouse). He had blue eyes, gray hair, a light complexion and weighed in at 219 pounds on a 5’5″ frame. At the age of 47, he was experiencing some health problems from his excess weight, and they continued to plague him throughout his life.
One of the things I remember about visiting their home, was Aunt Blanche’s wonderful cooking–particularly the elaborate cakes that she would decorate. Another thing that sticks with me is the big wooden console radio in the living room. During World War II when my mom and dad and I visited, we always clustered around that radio listening to the news.
In 1944 Keith Kaser announced that he would not run for a third term as Clerk of Courts, and in 1945, the newspaper announced that he was the Modern Woodmen of America auditor for the State of Ohio. Modern Woodmen is a fraternal benefit society (providing insurance to members, but also fraternal social activities) that was founded in 1883. As far as I know this was not a paid position, and I do not know what other employment he may have had at this time. I do recall in the 40s or early 50s that Aunt Blanche worked as a sales clerk in one of the stores on the main street of Millersburg.
Keith and Blanche loved to travel, particularly to take car trips, and the Coshocton Tribune personals column for Millersburg frequently details their Jaunts. I took one trip with them, and remember we left very early in the morning. I must have been excitedly chattering as I got in the car because Uncle Keith told me solemnly that I should be quiet, because the neighbors (who were very good friends of Keith and Blanche) were nasty people and if we woke them up, they’d want to go with us. So we had to leave very quietly because we didn’t want them to know we were on a trip. The story worked. I didn’t make a peep until we were on the road. For the longest time I believed his story, and even asked my mother and father about the mean neighbors that Keith and Blanche had. Of course my parents were mystified.
In 1950, The Coshocton Tribune carried an announcement of Keith K. Kaser running for County Auditor, but I have not yet learned if he was elected. Probably not, since I do not see any subsequent news about him being in office.
After Keith died in 1963, Blanche eventually sold the house and moved into a trailer home parked on the side lawn. She still had itchy travel feet, however, and in her seventies, took a Greyhound bus trip across the country. She visited us briefly in Scottsdale, Arizona, but did not stay long, as she had places to go.
Blanche died in 1991 and the journey of the couple who were married 48 years ends in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg, Ohio.
HOW WE ARE RELATED
- Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
- Paul Kaser, who is the brother of
- Keith Karl Kaser
Photos are from my personal collection, handed down from Paul Kaser, my father, except for the Holmes County Courthouse. If you click on that one, you will find out more about the photographer.
Draft Registration Card, WWI, #271 June 5, 1917, found at Ancestry.com; Ohio; Registration County: Holmes; Roll: 1832249;Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509,
Draft Registration Card, WWII, Serial #1002 April 27, 1942, found at Ancestry.com; United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group Number 147. National Archives and Records Administration.
The Coshocton Tribune, found at Ancestry.com Various articles between 1934 and 1955.
Census Records from 1900 (Coshocton , Ohio) 1910 (Clark, Ohio), 1920(Millersburg, Ohio),1930 (Orrville, Ohio),1940 (Millersburg, Ohio) all found at Ancestry.com
Birth Record Found at Ancestry.com: “Ohio Births and Christenings, 1821-1962.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2011. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records.
Death Record Ancestry.com. Web: Ohio, Find A Grave Index, 1787-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012; Original data: Find A Grave. Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi: accessed 25 January 2013.
I remember Uncle Keith so fondly. He was a great story teller. I remember riding with he and Blanche from Columbus to Millersburg one time. He told me stories about the Indians who lived in the forests along the way. As we passed the road sign that read “Watch for falling rocks” he convinced me that was the name of an Indian Chief. So we should watch for Chief Falling Rocks.
Ah, yes, the famous Chief Falling Rock! I think I must have heard that story, too. Thanks for sharing your memories.
And do you remember much later in life when we went to Canyon de Chelly, the Navajo guide had a different version of tale about falling rocks?
Keith and Blanche, with slide shows of their trans-Mississippi trips, fanned my romantic interest in the West where I always knew I would end up. The shelves of their home displayed Indian pottery and cowboy figurines to completed the impression. Keith’s stories of talking to old Indians hanging around Santa Fe and other exotic sites fascinated me. While driving along the country roads, he would point to the brow of some treelined hill and warn me not to be fooled. Those weren’t trees but Indian braves on the warpath: “Probably Suoxsies or Iragoosies.” I also liked his comic commentary as we watched old B Westerns on TV. Driving me to the hospital when at thirteen I had to have an urgent appendectomy, he said, “Well, now you’ll be like me, an honored member of the AOSB: Ancient Order of Scarbellies.” It was the most painful laugh I ever had. He was a fun guy and years later when, with our young boys, we visited widow Blanche in her little red trailer, I was glad to see she had found room to display many of those old souvenirs from their adventures in the Great and Mysterious West.
Thanks for new insights to Uncle Keith and Aunt Blanche. Didn’t know he drove you to the hospital! One of his lines was when we named our new son Kenneth Paul–“He’ll be on KP for the rest of his life.” Of course, at the time, I didn’t think to ask him how he liked being KKK.